7 June 2002 | bmacv
Semi-starry cast (and Beverly Michaels) helps carry routine jailbirds-on-the-lam noir
Like Canon City seven years earlier or Big House, U.S.A. of the same year, Crashout follows half a dozen convicts along their futile path to freedom. The drama centers only incidentally on their pursuit by police but explores the tensions that erupt among them and their hostile reaction to the world beyond the machine-gun turrets and barbed-wire fences. It's fast, brutal and far from subtle, but its cast is above-average, and the movie even slows down now and again for a poignant little vignette.
Self-appointed leader of the pack is William Bendix, wounded during the (pre-credits) prison break but brooking no dissent nonetheless. Strangest among them is William Talman (who also appeared in Big House, U.S.A. but of course lost countless cases to Perry Mason on TV, as District Attorney Hamilton Burger); he's a knife-throwing religious nut. Luther Adler as a Latin Lothario, Marshall Thompson as a sentimental kid in this thing over his head, and Gene Evans round out the roster of escapees except for Arthur Kennedy, who survives with something like a conscience stirring within him.
Helping to stir that conscience is farm gal Beverly Michaels, who arrives much too late in the story. Michaels, in her handful of roles (she starred in Russell Rouse's Wicked Woman), throws off a cool nonchalance that's all her own; with her low, distinctive way of talking, she suggests Sally Kellerman a decade or so later. In the ironic style that was coming into fashion, Crashout's ending leaves us hanging, at least a bit; still, it's competent enough to stand comparison with other installments of the jailbirds-on-the-lam sub-genre.